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Valleys entrepreneur helps people with mental health conditions into employment

Leon Spencer

A 25-year-old business owner from Rassau, Ebbw Vale is setting an example for fellow employers, after building a business that helps those with mental health illnesses and impairments to build employment skills and gain work experience.

Leon Spencer launched LTS Cleaning and Maintenance Solutions in October 2023 with the support of Big Ideas Wales, after years of struggling to maintain a job in a traditional work environment due to having high functioning autism.

Leon, who has navigated many careers over the past nine years, found that many employers lacked the education necessary to implement measures to support people like himself in a traditional workplace, and was as often pushed into intense social situations that caused him a lot of anxiety. Feeling unheard in the workplace, he decided to build a business that supported his individual employment needs.

Based in the heart of Blaenau Gwent County Borough, LTS Cleaning and Maintenance Solutions is a multi-service company providing everything from pathway restoration, fence and shed fixing and gutter cleaning to lawn upkeep and gardening services to businesses and locals in the area.

Since launching the business, Leon has helped three others with mental health conditions gain invaluable, transferrable skills, alongside fundamental self-confidence, by offering work experience and volunteering opportunities at LTS.

Speaking one-on-one with the individuals referred to him by local schools, colleges and charities, Leon develops an understanding of their specific needs before giving them the chance to gain skills and build their confidence to secure future employment.

Leon said: “The first lad who volunteered with us couldn’t hold a conversation or look me in the eyes. By the time he had completed his volunteer role months later he was communicating confidently with customers and had developed so much pride in his work, he was a different person altogether. He’s now has a permanent job as a landscaper.

“Another volunteer with high functioning autism really wanted to become a head chef, but his sleep pattern was horrendous and was detrimental to his work ethic and mental health. He volunteered at LTS alongside his kitchen job and, in time, developed a successful time management routine and a healthy relationship with sleep. He’s now third in charge at a successful restaurant.”

As an employer, Leon aims to instil people with a sense of pride, respect, self-worth and purpose.  Traits that enable them to develop a better relationship with their mental health and thrive in any workplace.

Leon added: “Having worked for employers who either had no understanding of disability requirements or had not implemented any initiatives to help people like me succeed, I understand how important my work is. I’m a different person since launching LTS. Working independently at my own pace, my day ends when I’ve completed a job to a standard I’m satisfied with, I finish every day feeling gratified with my work, which is lifechanging for my mental wellbeing and autism. I’m excited, rather than anxious, about what tomorrow will bring. My only goal now is to help more people like me find a job or career that suits them.”

Leon was encouraged to reach out to Big Ideas Wales by his parents, who have successfully owned and operated their own business for over 17 years. Big Ideas Wales is a Welsh Government funded service that, as part of Business Wales, aims to support anyone between the age of five and 25 to develop a business idea, including students and graduates, as part of its commitment to the Young Person’s Guarantee.

Shortly after reaching out in July 2023, Leon was paired with Big Ideas Wales Business Advisor Amanda Bordessa, who supported Leon in developing a business plan, conducting competitor research, identify potential local clients, and finalise his pricing and costs.

In September 2023, Amanda also helped Leon to successfully apply for The Young Person’s Start-Up Grant. Leon used the £2,000 funding to increase his marketing promotion, which has helped him to acquire customers outside of Rassau.

Leon will put the remaining funding towards repairing old equipment and installing eco-friendly water dispensers in the company vans, which will reduce his need to fill up in between jobs and reduce the company’s carbon emissions.

Big Ideas Wales Advisor, Amanda Bordessa, said: “Leon has spent almost a decade trying to change himself in order to fit into the mold of traditional employment. LTS Cleaning and Maintenance is more than just a want to start a business; it’s about finding purpose, helping others and setting a precedent for other employers. Leon isn’t just running a business, he’s changing lives through meaningful work opportunities.”